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Brian Douglas Hackman 1933-2015 (long version)

syjBrian Hackman, who died on 5 November 2015 after suffering with dementia for several years, was an accomplished international geologist, with a passion for languages.  He worked for most of his career in government departments across the world; all the while improving his language skills;  he spoke German, Russian, French, Spanish, Welsh, Kiswahili, Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia.

His interest in geology began at Tiffin Boys' School and he graduated from the Royal School of Mines in 1955 at a time when National Service conscription was still in force. He was exempt while at university but was drafted into the Royal Engineers immediately afterwards, serving for two years in Germany and Egypt where he saw action in the ill-fated Suez crisis.

In the Colonial Service he was posted, on his first job, to the British Solomon Islands Protectorate undertaking geological mapping and prospecting for gold, copper, nickel and bauxite but one island received most attention. He became an authority on the geology of Guadalcanal, one of the larger islands, where he mapped over 3,000 square kilometers of rugged terrain covered with dense tropical rain forest which obscured a complex island-arc sequence of rock types ranging from a “basement” of Cretaceous basalts and ultramafics to a Miocene-Recent series of calc-alkaline volcanics, high-level diorites, volcaniclastics, reef limestones and arenites. This work led to the award in 1971 of a PhD by the University of Western Australia. 

He spent ten years as a Colonial Officer in Solomon Islands interspersed with periods of travel in many parts of the world en route back to the UK on inter-tour leave. In 1972, he chose to travel home via Ethiopia where he was seriously injured in an air crash and extremely lucky to survive. After several months in hospital he was recruited in late 1972 by the Institute of Geological Sciences, as the British Geological Survey was then known, and was immediately seconded back to the Department of Geological Survey, Solomon Islands eventually becoming Chief Geologist there. 

He stayed with IGS/BGS for just over 20 years working mainly overseas as part of the British Overseas Aid programme.  After a short-term attachment to a geothermal investigation in St Lucia he became the leader of the first phase of the geological mapping and geochemical exploration of Choiseul and the Shortland Islands, in the Western Solomons. As Team Leader, Brian brought with him years of expertise of fieldwork in the harsh terrain of Solomon Islands. Most of the team had little or no experience of such an environment and Brian’s leadership was invaluable in helping them adapt to the challenging logistics and field conditions.

In northern Kenya Brian led the Samburu-Marsabit project, which was concerned with the geological mapping and mineral exploration of 100,000 square kilometers. of metamorphic rocks of the Precambrian Mozambique Belt and overlying Cainozoic volcanics. The project was a scientific success as well as being commended by an independent review body as significantly contributing to Kenya’s economic growth in its mineral sector.

Towards the end of his time with BGS Brian’s skill with languages was recognized and he was posted first to Malaysia and then to Indonesia to assist local geoscientists with the writing of technical reports and computerized editing.

In Malaysia he was attached to the Geological Survey of Malaysia as an expert to help set up an editorial and publications unit and to help train counterparts to staff it. Brian soon became a prominent and well-liked member of the Survey quickly adopting a role of father figure because of his ability in helping solve problems presented, not only by his counterparts but also by the Survey staff in general. Even his eccentricities were respected. He would explain how his bed was aligned to the magnetic field to provide the deepest sleep and how important it was to de-ionise his house and car to reduce the affects of tropical allergies. Brian much enjoyed his Malaysian assignment. It was probably one of the happiest spells he spent abroad in his later career.

Brian’s final overseas assignment was to the Indonesian Hydrocarbon Basin Assessment Project (IHBAP) in Jakarta as a member of the BGS team embedded with the Research and Development Centre for Oil and Gas Technology (LEMIGAS). Project objectives were to develop the institutional capability of LEMIGAS: firstly, to assess the petroleum resources of Indonesia and secondly to provide modern analytical services to the petroleum industry. A multidisciplinary study of the North Sumatra Basin (NSB) was the principal focus and Brian’s role was to enhance the technical skills of LEMIGAS staff in editing and production of geological reports.  His linguistic administrative and mentoring talents were ideal for this task and his local counterparts were quick to benefit from, and enjoy his tutorials. His final contribution, and legacy, was to edit and see through to publication the two-volume Project Report ‘The North Sumatra Basin:  Hydrocarbon Potential of the PERTAMINA UEP-1 Area’. This report reassesses the development of the basin, clarifying the timing and duration of hydrocarbon emplacement and providing a sound foundation for future exploration programmes within the NSB and adjacent basins. 

After retirement, in 1993, he settled in North Wales before moving to Skelmersdale to join a community of transcendental meditators centered around the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Centre.

Everywhere he worked he led by example and was an able manager with excellent organizational skills, who took a personal interest in the welfare all the team members, locally appointed staff and counterparts.  Although a confirmed bachelor, and something of an eccentric, he understood the stresses on family life imposed by husbands being in the field for long periods, leaving wives to cope with the day-to-day chores in foreign cities. Wherever he found himself, his warmth, coupled with his wit, skill as a storyteller and a well-developed sense of humour, touched people and he is missed by many.

Rodney Walshaw with the assistance of David Bate, Clive Jones, Roger Key, Sandy Macfarlane, John Ridgway and others.